Physiology

Fanning the Flame

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Science  22 Sep 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5487, pp. 2007
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5487.2007b

Increasing the rate of fluid flow across a chemosensory structure, for instance, by sniffing, would be expected to counteract the tendency of sensory receptors to habituate to odorant molecules presented continuously. In a quantitative analysis of the male silkworm moth Bombyx mori, Loudon and Koehl describe several additional effects that together magnify by orders of magnitude the impact of wing flapping on improving the detection of female sex pheromone. They show that a larger volume of air is carried past the moth's antennae and that the increased velocity of air flow results in greater infiltration of the sensilla on the antenna. Furthermore, the sensilla would rapidly capture all of the available pheromone at air velocities that a walking moth (these moths rarely fly) would experience, again, fanning the wings serves to replenish the local reservoirs of pheromone. — GJC

J. Exp. Biol.203, 2977 (2000).

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